Friday, January 15, 2010

What Would Jesus Do?

The Mormon church teaches that Jesus Christ is at the head of the church. HE leads it. It is HIS church {and all the others are wannabes, presumably}. Most members believe that Jesus has appeared personally to the prophet {currently Thomas S. Monson} and his twelve apostles. Many believe he visits them regularly. Keep these things in mind as you read this post.
The LDS Church refuses to disclose its financial information except for in countries where it is legally required to do so, such as Great Britain {though most other churches have no issue opening their books so that their members, and the public, can see what they’re doing with their money}. But it is estimated that the LDS church is worth $80 to $100 billion {yes, that’s BILLION with a ‘B’}.
“It is the wealthiest per capita religion in the world with annual tax-free revenues estimated to be $6 Billion per year.  The LDS Church owns 928,000 acres in North America, is the largest ranch land owner in Wyoming, is the 2nd largest land owner in Nebraska (Ted Turner #1), has the largest  cattle ranch in 48 states (Adjacent to Disneyworld in Florida), is the largest foreign landowner in UK.  The LDS Church owns several businesses, numerous radio and television stations, its own insurance company, and is rumored to be the largest single producer of commercial beef in the USA .  They own enormous properties in Hawaii including a Marriott hotel franchise in Hawaii, the Polynesian Cultural Center (which is the most visited tourist attraction in Hawaii)…” and more. {via MormonThink}
The Church is currently building a $3 billion {yes, again, that’s BILLION with a B} mall/office/condo building in Salt Lake City {a MALL in this economy? Geez, it doesn’t take a prophet to know THAT’S a horrible idea}.  They assure us no tithing money is being used. And since they refuse to let us see their books we’ll have to take their word for it. Of course, any money they make from their business ventures is money that was originally tithing {maybe from a hundred years ago}, and then invested. So really, it’s a bit moot, don’t you think?
The church coughed up at least $189,903 in non-monetary expenditures for Prop H8. And, after sending a letter to its wards {ward = congregation} throughout the US, it cajoled members into giving around $25 million.
This sad thread of comments {many from former ward clerks who are responsible for local money matters} indicates that a single ward may bring in $500K to $1  million each year but only receive a very small amount back to fund ward activities such as Christmas celebrations, children’s programs, etc. {in one case one ward sent $15k per WEEK to headquarters in SLC and was allotted just $7K {yes, there are NO zeroes on that number} for the entire YEAR}.
Members are expected to tithe, and unlike many churches that leave it up to the individual to determine what a tithe is, and if they can afford to pay one, the LDS church has a strict interpretation. A tithe is 10% of your income {and most “good Mormons” will insist it’s 10% BEFORE taxes}. It doesn’t matter how poor you are. If you want to be a member in good standing, if you want to be admitted into the Temple {for worship or family weddings} you must be paying tithing. In some wards if you need financial assistance, or food it won’t be given unless you’re paying your tithing {and even then, it’s not the Church’s job to help members who are struggling}. Every year you’ll be hauled in and asked if you’ve paid a full tithe that year. On top of tithes members are expected to donate extra money to help the poor {wait, extra money to help the poor, what the hell happened to all that tithing they paid?}, help pay for the missionary program, and more. And, since each ward is budgeted so little to pay for its programs, many members end up paying out of pocket for things like photocopying, food, etc. in relation to their callings {callings = assigned, unpaid positions}.
OK. Now, stop. Let it all sink in, particularly the $3 BILLION mall. What else could $3 billion buy?
Well, if a mission costs each missionary {yes, those guys in suits are PAYING for the privilege of knocking on your door} $400 USD p/month {that is, each young man or woman pays the church $400 then the Church gives them money back based on the expected expense of where they’re serving, much like it treats its wards – missionaries often struggle to have good meals, toilet paper, etc. and end up spending extra of their own money – Adam knew missionaries on his mission that depleted their life savings picking up the slack}, and If a mission is 2 years {18 months for the women}, that’s about $9,600. For $3 billion the church could pay for 312,500 missionaries instead of insisting these young men and women VOLUNTEERS and their families be the ones struggling to foot the bill.
Or, better yet, instead of paying for people to go harass us door to door the church could do a lot, and I mean A LOT of good in Haiti.
But wait! “The Church IS helping Haiti!” some would protest.
You’re right, let’s take a look at what they’ve done.
Within 24 hours of Tuesday's quake, the LDS Church joined forces with one of its major partners of late in providing humanitarian aid, Islamic Relief USA, the nation's largest Muslim relief organization.
Islamic Relief USA officials announced Wednesday they were flying aid to Haiti in cooperation with the LDS Church.
Two planes, one departing from Denver as early as Thursday and another leaving from Miami later this week, each will transport to Haiti more than 80,000 pounds of food and emergency resources such as tents, tarps, water filtration bottles and medical supplies donated by the LDS Church, spokesman Scott Trotter said. {via Deseret News, the newspaper owned by the LDS church}
Unfortunately, MONEY not supplies is what is needed right now. And, as of yet, I have heard nothing about the church sending money {though they seem to have plenty to spare}. Even Brad and Angelina have pledged $1 million already. But, it is still fairly early I guess? Maybe it’s too soon to judge. So let’s take a look at how the church helped in an emergency in the past…
As I mentioned before, we don’t know what the church does with its money in the US. But we do have insight to their behavior in the UK. And here is the disturbing summary of what happened after the 2005 tsunami:
The church asked UK members to donate money to help the tsunami victims. Guess how much of the UK members donations went to tsunami victims?
No, really, guess.
OK, you ready for the answer?
Nothing went to the tsunami victims. {For the full story click here and scroll down to “The Tsunami.”}
Personally, I think charity fraud is vile. It’s the worst kind of people taking advantage of the best kind of people. And, in my opinion, what happened in the UK is charity fraud. It makes you wonder what is happening in the US where the church isn’t required to open their books.
Some estimates place the church as donating LESS THAN 1% of its income to help the poor.
In Jan. 2006, from the Church PR department, (Deseret News Publishing Company): Edgley said, “that since 1984, the LDS Church has donated nearly $750 million in cash and goods to people in need in more than 150 countries.” That averages to 37.5 million per year or about $3-$4 per Mormon member went to the poor. The total of $750 million in 22 years spent in cash in goods to people in need is less than HALF what the church is spending on these malls.  Less than half!! The Mormon church is spending less than 1% of its income to help the poor. {via}
They could prove us wrong. They could be as upfront as other churches, say the Catholic church about their charitable work. They could let us see just where their members contributions are going. But I suspect we wouldn’t like what we’d see.

{ETA: The death toll in Haiti is expected to possibly be as high as 200,000 people. That's well over the population of Salt Lake City! And yet the church has only helped send a measly $1 million worth of supplies? We, as a family, have given a little over three quarters of 1% of our yearly income to help Haiti. So, percentage-wise we've given more to help Haiti than the church gives in humanitarian aid TOTAL.}

So, remember the first paragraph to this post? You know, the bit about Jesus Christ himself directing this church?

What would Jesus do?

Build a mall, apparently.

Addendum: The church says it is continuing to send aid {though, still no word on whether they have contributed any of there vast monetary resources} and that it is using local church buildings to provide shelter. So that's definitely better than a kick in the face. But the overall concerns I voice in the post {such as the less than 1% in aid} still stand. And I will continue to distrust LDS charity until they OPEN THEIR BOOKS TO SCRUTINY.